Stories and Grievances: Special Education
Autistic Boy's Service Dog is Barred From Going To School With Him
Carter's parents said they'd spent close to $10,000 on the bringing Carter and Corbin together; it'd been worth every penny. "We would have never made it from the car to the swing set," Carter's mom said. Carter doesn't speak, is prone to tantrums. But that's changing. The boy who seems to have been locked away in somewhere in Carter's mind, is starting to come out. The parents are suing.
School District Refuses to Allow Autistic Child's Service Dog
Family Taking Columbia, Illinois Schools to Court
By Andy Banker, August 12, 2009
COLUMBIA, IL (KTVI-FOX2now.com) - The parents of an autistic little boy in Columbia, llinois, are in disbelief. Their school district, Columbia Community Schools Unit #4, is going to court to keep to their son from bringing his new 'service dog' to school. Chris and Melissa Kalbfleisch are fighting to keep the district from breaking the bond between their son, Carter, 5, and his new dog, Corbin.
They're certain they have the law on their side but say that shouldn't even matter when you see the change in Carter.
"It's a beautiful thing to watch, it really is," Carter's mother, Melissa said.
Carter was swinging on the swingset at the park, a huge development for him.
"He should get to be able to do this, you know what I mean. He should get to be able to come to the park," his mother said.
He never could without a fight, until Corbin came into his life.
Cobrin is an 11 month old, Bouvier; a service dog trained especially for a child with autism.
Carter's parents said they'd spent close to $10,000 on the bringing Carter and Corbin together; it'd been worth every penny.
"We would have never made it from the car to the swing set," Carter's mom said.
Carter doesn't speak, is prone to tantrums. But that's changing. The boy who seems to have been locked away in somewhere in Carter's mind, is starting to come out.
"For someone who's never got to hear their child say, 'mama' or 'dada', I'll try anything," Melissa Kalbfleisch said.
"He's been lots happier," said Carter's big sister, Allison, 7. Allison will start 2nd grade in the school district this year.
She said there'd been a big change from the way Carter used to be.
"He would get down on the floor, cry, he would pull you, tug, take fits on the floor," she said.
And now ...
"He holds onto the dog's latch ... every time we go somewhere [now], we can just walk through the store without Carter getting down and not being able to walk with us. We just go right through the store and get everything we need."
"He actually gave his dog two commands," Carter's mom said. "Singing 'Jingle Bells' in the middle of summer is not talking, that's not communicating. He told his dog to 'wait' and to 'hold'. That is huge for a child who doesn't speak !"
His parents couldn't wait for his teachers in the Columbia School District's special education program to see the difference in Carter, only to be stunned to learn the district won't allow Corbin at school.
The family received word Wednesday the U.S. Department of Education is launching a civil rights investigation on the case.
They're also hoping a judge will grant an injunction this week forcing the district to let Carter bring Corbin to school in accordance with state law.
Their motion for a prelimary injunctions cites the following clause: 105 ILCS 5/14-6.02: "service animals such as guide dogs, signal dogs, or any other service animal individually trained to perform tasks for the benefit of a student with a disability shall permitted to accompany that student at all school functions, whether in or outside the classroom."
Carter's mom said if district officials could only see what she'd seen in just the few weeks that had passed since Carter met Corbin; the smiles on her son's face that never used to come; hints of the loving little boy who'd always been there, who she was finally getting to know.
"It's amazing. It really is. We're happy," she said, holding back tears. "They have something going on between the two of them that is just beautiful and amazing."
A hearing set on the matter was set before Judge Doyle in Monroe County Court Thursday, August 13, at 3:00 p.m.
The district had filed nothing in court about "why" Corbin might cause problems at school.
Superintendent, Ed Settles, told Fox 2, he couldn't comment on the matter because of the pending litigation, but he said, "Columbia Schools love all children."
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